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The Ataris: Back Where It Began
Posted June 17, 2019 by Jim Rawlinson

The Ataris are one of Indiana's (perhaps the most) commercially successful punk rock acts of the 1990s and they started with the kind of legendary "demo tape in the right hands" big break that defined the 1990s. See them at the Hi Fi on 6/19!

Formed in 1996 in Anderson, IN with just singer, songwriter Kris Roe and Jasin (Wayne) Thomason writing and recording with a 4 track and a drum machine, like a lot of bands back then. This was way before bandcamp and soundcloud and even before a lot of the easily accesible digital recording software like garageband. Just tapes and 4 tracks .

The legend goes that Jasin and Kris went to a show at Bogarts in Cincinnati and Jasin gave one of those demo tapes to a roadie for the Vandals. He in turn gave it to the bassist for the band, which owned Kung Fu Records. A few weeks later, Kung Fu Records called Kris and told him they wanted to put out a record by the band, which at this point still didn't even have a drummer. Things moved quickly. The Ataris signed to Kung Fu, added former Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde, and went in to the studio to record their debut album. They were in and out of the studio in less than a week. On May 2, 1997 they released Anywhere but Here at legendary but now defunt Missing Link Records in Broad Ripple. Six months after Jasin and Kris started making tapes in their bedrooms. A month later Kris Roe would make the move from Anderson to So Cal to chase the dream.

The Ataris became a road fixture, constantly touring the DIY punk scene. Constant touring leads to constant lineup changes and the band almost called it quits early on. in 1998 they released an EP "Look Forward to Failure" with NOFX singer Fat Mikes "Fat Wreck Chords" label. A year later they'd release their follow up full length "Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits" again on Kung Fu. They were starting to be recognized as straddling the line between the 90's pop punk sound and the emerging late 90's/ early 00's emo scene of bands like the Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World.

In 2001, the Atari's took part in the legendary Van's Warped Tour (a jumping off point for many punk and hardcore acts in the early 00's). Releasing their third full length studio album End is Forever. This was the last Kung Fu Records release for the Ataris and after the success they'd had on the indie circuit, the majors were calling. In 2003 they would release their fourth full length album So Long Astoria as their major label debut, with Columbia Records.

With the major label backing, the Ataris were able to spend more time in the studio and more time on songwriting and the results were a slicker sound. The Ataris were now solidly in that Jimmy Eat World vein and that "emo" "mall punk" sound just happened to be blowing up the airwaves. The album produced a number of successful singles "In This Diary" "My Reply" and "The Saddest Song" but the breakthrough hit was one out of left field. A cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" would be picked up but influential rock station KROQ and, much to the surprise of the band, explode, hitting #20 on the Billboard Hot 100. So Long Astoria would go on to sell more than 700,000 copies and be certified as a gold record.

They followed up So Long Astoria with a track on a big blockbuster soundtrack (Spider-Man 2), and released a live album Live at the Metro. In the fall of ’04 the So Long Astoria lineup split up and went their various ways and Roe headed back to Indiana to get some time off. A year later Roe would pull together a new lineup and begin work on another full length “Welcome the Night” which was delayed multiple times by Columbia. Like many bands in that era, the Ataris got caught up in the late 00’s collapse of the record industry. Labels weren’t quick enough to pivot to digital and online music and hundreds of bands got stuck in the middle. The Ataris split with Columbia in 2006 and started their own label, Isola Recordings, and finally released Welcome the Night, which debuted on the Billboard Top 100. The band was back on tour.

In the years since the Ataris have stayed on the road and kept releasing albums, making a number of returns to Indiana along the way. Jasin Thomason, who stayed in Indiana when Roe moved to California way back when, would go on to form a number of local punk and indie bands, most notably Project Bottlecap and InCalico (with former members of About the Fire and Illithid). On Wednesday you can see Jasin and Kris share a stage at the HiFi and relive some of those early Ataris days. Local post-punkers Maravich open the show.

The Ataris ARE in the MFT archive, check it out

You can read an interview that Dave Lindquist of the Indianapolis Star did with Roe HERE

Check out this throwback video of Kris and Jasin on acoustics in 2001!

 

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